I wear the badge of “camp kid” loud and proud. I have not been a camp counselor for almost 10 years, but I sport my bumper sticker for my beloved camp year-round. Shoutout to Camps Kahdalea and Chosatonga for some of the most formative years of my life.
I won’t sugarcoat it. Homesickness can be very real for a lot of kids. Many of those who go to camp have never been away from home longer than a night or two, and a lot of times it’s with grandparents or other family members.
The first year I went to camp, I was 9. I was shy at the time (lol to that now), and I was going to be away from my siblings and grandma for more than 3 weeks with USPS as the only form of communication. I was sad my first night. It was a brand new place FULL of brand new people. That next morning, my day was so full of activities I had always wanted to try, but had no place to do them. Hiking, rock climbing, archery, canoeing – who had time to miss home when I got to do all of these activities?!
Trading TV screens for screen windows
Our camp was rustic. We were in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, so the evenings were cool. We were IN nature. It was amazing. Instead of falling asleep to the TV, we fell asleep to the sound of running water in the nearby creek. Instead of being huddled around an iPhone, we were huddled around a campfire singing songs and laughing until our bellies hurt.
It can be scary for a kid to be disconnected, but it can be scary for a parent, too. These days we always know exactly where our kids are, what they say, what they text, and how long they have been looking at their screens. It can be hard to let go for everyone, but the chance to disconnect from one thing allows room to connect (or reconnect) with something else.
Let kids be kids
Never have I felt more silly or ridiculous as I did spending time at camp. We had SNL-style skit nights. It was common to break out a camp-wide game of capture the flag. On the Fourth of July, we would paint ourselves red, white, and blue and jump off the diving board imitating a firework. To the outside looking in, this is a madhouse. And, they wouldn’t be wrong. From August through May, kids are constantly worried or pressured about grades, chores/responsibilities, being on their best behavior, being the best on the team. Why not give them a summer to just. simply. play?
Friends for a lifetime
For anyone who has been to camp, you are likely still in touch with those friends. They are at your wedding. You drive hours and hours to see them states away. They know you better than anyone. Camp allows kids to truly be themselves. They are free from pressure to dress a certain way because everyone is in shorts and t-shirts playing. They are free from the need to perform because no one is keeping score. They are able to express themselves freely because conversations are the center of time together rather than a phone or a screen. Some of the biggest influences in my life were counselors at camp. They saw me for my true self, and I felt celebrated for it.
Camp is the best gift I have ever received. I am counting down the years until my kids are old enough to experience the beauty and freedom of the wilderness and the authentic friendships camp provides. Take the plunge, you won’t regret it!